How to Encourage an Environment of Ideas
00:10 Samuel Bacharach: When you think about what the role of leaders are ... The role and the relation between leadership and innovation, one of the things that I can tell you, if you have an organization with 15 people, or you have an organization with 15,000 people, you've got a lot of creative people out there. In a 15-person organization I can guarantee you got at least 10 creative people. In a 15,000-person organization I guarantee you got at least 10,000 creative people. Your challenge as a leader is to tap into their creativity. That's the innovation challenge for a leader. Not to be passive about others but to tap into their creativity, to create an environment where people are willing to risk, that are building their creativity to innovate.
00:56 Bacharach: So a leader is essential to a culture of innovation. Because a leader creates that environment where you allow people to risk, where you allow people to say things, what we call divergent thinking. We allow people to challenge. It's important that a leader is there all the time, giving people the ability to move their idea forward. Too often leaders scare people. I mean they do, they inhibit them. People hesitate to give ideas; or we have this notion that giving ideas is some suggestion box in the corner. It's more than that. If your relationship as a leader is intimate and close with the people you're working with, you're gonna get more ideas from them. So you've gotta create the atmosphere to do that. And you know what? Once you've done that, you also have to champion the ideas.
01:47 Bacharach: I'm always reminded of the people that get involved in a startup, they break their neck, they give hours, they spend two years of their life; they do everything and then some leader drops the ball. You've got to go the distance. You've got to be able to take the ideas, and if you're a startup, fight for those ideas, and if you're in a corporation, get the funding for those ideas. It's not simply enough to create an environment of creativity, but you also have to champion those ideas. And that takes us back to where we talked before, you've got have the political competence to go the distance. Some of the best leaders of innovative organizations are not necessarily the most innovative people I know. But they are great leaders. They see the strength of others, they invest in the strength of others, most importantly they pull out the strength of others, they see others' creativity and then they champion. They back their people and they go the distance. They fight for their people's ideas.
SAMUEL B. BACHARACH | Columnist | Director, Cornell's Institute of Workplace Studies
Samuel B. Bacharach is the McKelvey-Grant professor in the department of organizational behavior at Cornell University's ILR School, and is director of Cornell's Institute for Workplace Studies in New York City. Among his books are Get Them on Your Side and Keep Them on Your Side. His latest volume, A Good Idea Is Not Enough: Leading for Change and Innovation, will be published this November by BLG.